That The Beatles are more, much more than a music group, is beyond question. That at one point in their career they received notable influences from India is also a well-known fact. Now we only need to analyse the intersection of these two statements and understand to what extent their stay in a meditation centre, the ashram of yogi Mharishi Mahesh in 1968, was a determining factor for the rest of their lives and their music.
In another part of the Beatlemaniac universe was, in the 1960s, Ajoy Bose, today an acclaimed journalist who at the time was just a rebellious teenager in Calcutta who was given the opportunity to get to know his idols more closely. The Liverpool four set out for India, encouraged by George Harrison and his first wife, Pattie Boyd, who had fallen in love with the country on a previous trip with the whole band.
Half a century later, that young journalist celebrates the time The Beatles spent in India with a book, Across the Universe: The Beatles in India, and a documentary directed in collaboration with cultural researcher Peter Compton entitled The Beatles and India. Both contain a good part of these keys, how they learnt to play the sitar, among other instruments, how they immersed themselves in Indian culture, how they learnt to meditate and how they wrote The White Album more or less in its entirety there. Actually, three of them, since Ringo Starr and his wife didn’t stay long in Rishikesh, in the Himalayas, where ashram -now in ruins- was located.
The Valladolid International Film Festival screened the documentary on Tuesday 26th October 2021, with the presence of one of the main protagonists, Pattie Boyd. Alongside Guillermo Rodríguez, director of the House of India in Valladolid, she shared with those present her impressions after watching the documentary: “What an incredible experience! I had almost forgotten what those months were like,” she said. And she added: “It’s fantastic to see those Beatles so young and joyous at that time.”
Although the Beatles left the ashram disappointed with Mharishi Mahesh due to a misunderstanding, that was cleared up years later, she and George Harrison continued to travel around India for some more time. “He wanted to stay in India longer to stay away from the London business world a bit more,” she said. That may not be the only reason: “I want to thank the makers of this film for giving me the opportunity to remember how important meditation is. I continue to do it,” she added.
The screening of the documentary is just one of the events organised around The Beatles. The premiere of the documentary is the beginning of a film marathon that will be completed with The Beatles: Eight Days a Week. The Touring Years (Ron Howard, 2016), Get Back (Richard Lester, 1991) and a restored copy of the musical comedy A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, 1964).
The screenings will be joined by the exhibition that, from 17th September, can be seen at the House of India about the musicians’ trip to this Asian country, and a concert of versions of the Liverpool group’s songs by Indian musicians Malavika Manoj, Tejas Menon and Neil Mukherjee.